The United Nations has a heritage organization known as UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, honors the French baguette. This organization promotes peace and security by promoting knowledge sharing and the free flow of ideas to accelerate mutual understanding and a more perfect knowledge of each other’s lives.
On November 30, 2022, UNESCO voted to add the French baguette to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. It stated that the baguette is a symbol of French culture. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, said that this achievement “celebrates France’s way of living: The baguette is a daily routine, a structuring part of the meal, synonymous of sharing and conviviality.”
This heritage list includes 600 traditions from more than 130 countries. The aim is to preserve the skills and social customs of these countries. The list includes such notables as beekeeping in Slovenia, tea making in China, the Thai Massage, and pottery making in Vietnam.
Origin of the Baguette
Unlike store-bought bread, the French baguette is known for its crisp crust and long length. The word baguette means wand or baton. Its origin in unclear. One theory is that Napoleon created a bread that was easy for his soldiers to carry. Another speculation is that the French Metro system wanted a bread that was easily torn apart. This was to encourage its workers from carrying knives, as they often got into fights.
Another pronouncement is that a law passed in France in 1919 resulted in the baguette. This law forbid bakers from working between 10:00 pm and 4:00 am. Thus, the bakers did not have enough time to make the more traditional round bread. They had to come up with an alternative.
In actuality, the baguette was likely first created by August Zang in Vienna in 1839. He used France’s steam oven which produced the flaky crust with a fluffy interior.
Shape of the Baguette
The baguette does not always take the usual shape. Sometimes it is made as a short, ball-shaped or bâtard loaf or in English as a torpedo loaf. Another variation is tube shaped (flûte) or called parisiennethe English. This loaf is about twice the size as the familiar baguette. For a pictorial representation see here.
By French law, the traditional baguette must consist of wheat flour, water, salt, and wild and/or baker’s yeast. The shape is not dictated. However, using different flours produce different tastes. These may be rice, whole wheat, multigrain, or sourdough. Also, a quick or slow rising of the dough produces a different texture and taste. For full details on making a classic French baguette, see this document.
Popularity of the Baguette
How popular is the baguette? Consumption figures vary as there is no way to track public and private sales and usage. Estimates in France run from 16 to 30 million per day (half a baguette per person), while French Algeria may rival France by consuming 49 baguettes per day (en.Wikipedia.org).
The price of a French baguette varies widely around the world. According to 2017 figures in US dollars, it will cost in
- Algeria $.09
- Colombia $.82
- Spain 41.12
- France $1.12
- Malaysia $1.12
- Chile $1.42
- Australia $1.87
- China $3.75
- as reported here. In my US-style grocery store in Ecuador, I pay $1.05.
Does man live by bread alone? The French would probably say–Maybe!
Fact: There are 35,000 artisanal bakeries in France
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